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Travelogue: Hastings Old Town

During my few days at my parents in East Sussex, my Dad suggested a ride along the coast to Hastings. I used to visit years ago as I had a mate who’s parents lived in nearby Fairlight. My Mum and Dad, as I learnt, used to visit regularly on their Lambretta in the 60’s.  

We drove into Hastings from Eastbourne and along the sea front heading east making sure we had our doors locked. There was a thriving business in scaffolding, most of which was stopping buildings from collapsing and wooden boards, and little had changed it seemed since William Conqueror showed up with his bow and arrow looking for a ruck. 

The burnt out pier remains but just last month a heritage lottery grant was approved for work to start on it’s restoration. We drove on past Warrior Square with it’s statue of Queen Victoria, who wouldn’t have been amused at it’s unkempt look. 

We kept driving until we got to the much more carefully tended Old Town. Right here is The Stade, which is home to Europe’s biggest fleet of beach-launched fishing boats, that have been operating here for over 400 years. Unique in this part of the Old Town are the Net Shops. Due to a limited amount of space they are are built high, some as tall as 18 feet with multiple floors and cellars. The 50 or so black wooden sheds (photo above) were built to provide a weather proof store for fishing gear including nets and each are made from natural materials to prevent them from rotting in wet weather. The sheds are tarred black and weatherboarded.

It was fun to walk in between the Net Shops and have a nose into the fresh fish stores selling their daily catch. We also grabbed a coffee and sat outside the modern eat @ The Stade Cafe. Next door to the cafe a new gallery is being constructed on Rock-a-Nore Parade which will be the permanent home of the Jerwood Art Collection and right there also was the free to enter Fisherman’s Museum occupying a 150-year old church. 

The East Hill Cliff Railway has had a facelift since my last venture up it. The  funicular train takes only a few minutes to  climb the cliff face and at the top of the hill are miles of walks and the green open spaces of the Hastings Country Park. Here families picnicked and a queue waited with anticipation at the Mr Whippy ice cream van which we of course joined. Flake please.

East Hill offered tremendous views across the town and beyond the summit of it’s twin West Hill and Cliff Rly. Bexhill was clearly visible with the blue skies behind it.

The sun had brought the tattooed masses out and the pebbled beach behind The Stade was busy as was every fish and chip restaurant as we sought plaice and chips. My Mum, never one to be fussy, insisted on her battered fish being plaice and eventually we found sanctum at The Ambassador, which was passable but we should have persevered with the Mermaid Cafe, where the busy tables and a queue underlined our real desire to eat there. 

My son made good use of tenner worth of tokens that I bought him at the Stade Family Fun Park. The Frog Hopper was so good that he went back for seconds, fortunately this was before his lunch.

The Old Town shops are completely out of character to the rest of Hastings and they’re easy to browse and I’d imagine a bit of a gold mine if we were looking for that little antique or memento to take home. We weren’t but plenty of others were.

And that was that, the sun was getting hotter so we jumped back in the motor, locked the doors and sped through the main town of Hastings and drove to Pevensey for a nice cold pint.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dave #

    Spent numerous weeks in Hastings in my teens courtesy of a mates family who owned a beach hut at Bexhill. Really got to know the town and always thought it got a raw deal when compared with more popular seaside towns on the south coast.

    June 7, 2011
  2. Hungry Ted #

    Nice travelogue CA. I’ve got a touring caravan that my family enjoy countless weekends away in each year (around the all-important Addick’s fixtures, of course).

    I’ve just returned from a half-term break in West Sussex, but may well be tempted to go east next time!

    June 8, 2011
  3. Great post. My wife’s family used to go there as a family every year. We can vouch for the fish and chips, they are great. Bexhill is also having a facelift, and the whole coast is very memorable. For a good day out, try going down to the front at Eastbourne and taking a boat trip past the 7 sisters in front of Beachy Head. There are some great walks now opened up in the new National Park along the coast and over the south downs. My personal favourite is a trip on the Bluebell Railway which runs from Sheffield Park, and should soon reach East Grinstead.

    June 9, 2011

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